Jesus had gotten their attention, but by the looks on their faces, it was clear they had no idea what he was talking about.

In counseling parlance, this is called “resistance.”[1] According to the manual I received, when I went through counseling training, “Resistance is the intentional and purposeful (though often unconscious) avoidance of an involved and motivating consideration of issues.”

The purpose of resistance is to avoid conviction and pain. Resistance is based on the belief there is a way to live without such pain and without a deep wrestling with it. According to Dr. Bill Clark, co-founder of The Lay Counselor Institute, “Where there is resistance, there is strength, desire, longing, protection, a clinging to an older belief or strategy.”

In the disciples’ case, it may have been their simple shock of trying to grapple with their rabbi taking them through Samaria, asking them to interact with the Samaritans by purchasing food, and implying they were to eat this Samaritan food.

And then, when they thought the ordeal was over, they found their rabban not only talking alone to a woman, but a Samaritan woman, and giving her the kind of spiritual revelation that only properly belonged in a conversation with one of them, his disciples.

People can genuinely feel confused, feel blank, and have real questions. This is often a form of “reasonable resistance,” because there are simply no “hooks” for the new experience, or information, to “hang” on. And this might be combined with an unconscious reluctance to get beneath the surface of the obvious circumstances.

Imagine Jesus smiling gently at his bewildered disciples, empathizing with their stress and distress being in Samaria, from being taxed with their excursion into town, trying to navigate through the uncomfortable Judean / Samaritan cultural divide, with their physical hunger, understanding how aggrieved they were that the unpleasant errand Jesus had sent them on was now sounding like a complete waste of time.

With his soul perception, the reader of hearts knew they were not going to mention the shocking scene they had stumbled upon in their return. Nor, of their hearing such a powerful revelation delivered to one they felt should never have had the privilege that was rightfully theirs, as his disciples, as those of the Jewish faith, as men.

I imagine Jesus gathering them around him. Come close, listen. I have something important to tell you.

“Do you not say that ‘After four months then the harvest comes’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes.” And here, Jesus must have put his hands on their shoulders to physically turn them towards the town of Sychar, pointing as he did so, towards the people streaming out.

“Look carefully, the ‘fields’ that are white for reaping already.” For it had only been a little while, just an hour or so, and not four months, since the woman had returned to the village. As he said these words, more and more people appeared, coming through the town gate, some running, some walking quickly, many in the natural, undyed garments of simple folk. They indeed looked like a moveable white field, ripe for the harvest.

“The one who reaps receives wages and gathers fruit into eternal life,” Jesus was pointing to all of his disciples, “In order that the one who sows,” he pointed out to the people, “And the one who reaps,” he pointed back to them, “Be joyful together.” He now had one arm around Peter’s shoulder and another around John’s as he gave them both a warm squeeze.

Slowly, they nodded their heads. It was dawning on them Jesus meant to teach these people, and perhaps even have his disciples baptize some. They had noticed several springs near the town as they walked. It was all almost too large for them to hang onto, to grasp. Salvation in Samaria!

Jesus was still speaking, “For in this the saying is true, that ‘One is the sowing and another the reaping.’ I myself sent you all to reap which you all have not labored for: others have labored, and you all into their labor have entered.” (John 4:35-38)

At that they must have looked at each other questioningly. Did anyone know who Jesus meant?

Who was it?

Who had done the labor of sending the entire town out to Jacob’s well to learn from them?

They kept looking at each other. They had been there a good hour, finding food, haggling prices, trying to act naturally, be courteous. But not too friendly. They had found themselves pulling their robes in time and again so as not to touch anything. But they had seen no rabbi, or evangelist of any kind.

So who had been the sower Jesus was speaking of, whose harvest was clearly a hundredfold?

And here they did come, for John recorded many Samaritans from Sychar believed in Jesus based on the woman’s testimony. Then, as their hearts were moved by Jesus’ words, they invited him to stay. It is one of the few places in scripture where Jesus accepted such an invitation, staying with them two days. Many more put their faith in Jesus, and said to the woman,

No longer through your sayings do we believe, for these things we have heard, and we perceive-and-discern that this is truly the Savior of the World.

The citizens of Sychar, to the woman who had first talked with Jesus, John 4:42

The epilogue to this one woman’s willingness to run back and tell her village about Jesus is found in Luke’s account of the early church. The seeds planted on this day became a great harvest of believers when Philip the evangelist went back to Samaria three years later to tell them about the Lord Jesus’ resurrection.

Now those who were scattered went from place to place, proclaiming the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them.

The crowds with one accord listened eagerly to what was said by Philip, hearing and seeing the signs that he did, for unclean spirits, crying with loud shrieks, came out of many who were possessed; and many others who were paralyzed or lame were cured. So there was great joy in that city. . .

Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them.

The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit (for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus).

Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

Acts 8:4-8, 14-17 (NRSV)

Why did Jesus decide to walk through Samaria, and sit at Jacob’s well?

Because he had a spiritual appointment to keep with a woman who may have thought she had little to offer anyone and was of little worth to anyone.

She had two deep-seated, God-given longings.

The first longing was to be truly and completely known and accepted, to be fully understood and loved, to be treated gently, with warmth and respect, and to have her own love fully received with joy and delight.

Her second longing was to know that her life was worth something, that she had meaning and purpose in the world, that who she was, and what she did, mattered.

And welling up within her came a fountain of Living Water that flowed out into all Samaria.

[1] My training with The Lay Counselor Institute,, has helped me to understand all the many ways resistance drives what we do and say, often without even realizing it! For more information, please visit the website to join a seminar or class.

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